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First Name: Lewis

Last Name: Walt

Birthplace: KS, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: William

Date of Birth: 16 February 1913

Date of Death: 26 March 1989

Rank: General

Years Served: 1930-1936 (Colorado Natl Gd, 1936-1971 (USMC)
Lewis William Walt

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Lewis William "Lew" Walt
General, U.S. Marine Corps

Lewis William Walt was born on 16 February 1913, in Wabaunsee County, KS. He graduated from high school in Fort Collins, CO. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from Colorado State University in 1936. Highlights of his student activities include: honor graduate, President of Student Body and Student Council, Captain of football and wrestling teams, Cadet Colonel of the ROTC, President of Chemistry Club and Captain of Scabbard and Blade. He enlisted in the Colorado National Guard at the age of 17. Upon graduation, he was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Army Field Artillery Reserve, but resigned that commission to accept an appointment as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps on 6 July 1936.

Lieutenant Walt completed The Basic School at Philadelphia, and in April 1937 was assigned to the 6th Marine Regiment in San Diego, CA, as a Machine Gun Platoon Leader. Embarking for China in August 1937, he took part in the defense of the International Settlement of Shanghai until February 1938, at which time he returned to San Diego. In June 1939, he began his second tour of overseas duty when he was assigned to the Marine Barracks, Guam, Mariana Islands. He was promoted to First Lieutenant in October 1939.

Returning to the U.S. in June 1941, shortly before his country's entry into World War II, Lieutenant Walt was assigned as a Company Commander in the Office Candidates' Class, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, VA. He was promoted to Captain in December 1941.

World War II

Early in 1942, Captain Walt volunteered to join the 1st Marine Raider Battalion, and in April 1942 arrived with the Battalion on Samoa. On 7 August 1942, as Commander of Company A, 1st Raider Battalion, he landed his Company in the assault on Tulagi Island in the British Solomon Islands. He was awarded the Silver Star Medal for conspicuous gallantry during this landing. Following this action, he joined the 5th Marines on Guadalcanal where he took part in combat as Commanding Officer of the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines. He was promoted to Major in September 1942.

In October 1942, as Battalion Commander, 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Marine Division, Major Walt was wounded in action but continued in combat. He was spot-promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on 22 December 1942 for distinguished leadership and gallantry in action during the Guadalcanal campaign.

In December 1943, following hospitalization and training in Australia, Walt led the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, in the assault at Cape Gloucester, New Britain, and shortly thereafter was assigned as Regimental Executive Officer. In the middle of this campaign he was ordered to take over command of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, during the intense battle for Aogiri Ridge. During this action, he earned his first Navy Cross and Aogiri Ridge was named "Walt Ridge" in his honor by General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr., 1st Marine Division Commander. Departing Cape Gloucester in late February 1944, Lieutenant Colonel Walt was ordered to the Naval Hospital, Oakland, CA, for treatment of wounds and malaria.

In June 1944, he returned to the Pacific Theater. That September, he landed with the Marine force on Peleliu as Regimental Executive Officer, 5th Marines. On the first day of the battle, he was again ordered to take command of 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines after the Battalion's Commanding Officer and Executive Officer became casualties. After nightfall on the first day of the battle, three of the Battalion's companies had failed to make contact with the command post and their exact whereabouts were unknown. At great risk to himself, Lieutenant Colonel Walt ventured out into enemy-infested territory in the dark of night, accompanied by only a single soldier, and proceeded to locate the missing companies and direct them to their correct position along the divisional line. For these actions, Lieutenant Colonel Walt was awarded his second Navy Cross for gallantry in action.

In November 1944, Walt returned to the U.S., and the following month assumed duty at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, as Chief of the Marines Officer Candidates' School Tactics Section.

Inter-War Years

Assigned to Camp Pendleton in January 1947, Lieutenant Colonel Walt served as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, 3rd Marine Brigade, and then as G-3, 1st Marine Division. In November 1947, he assumed duty as Operations and Training Officer, 1st Provisional Marine Brigade on Guam, and later served as Chief of Staff of that organization from February to April 1949. Returning to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, in May 1949, he saw duty as a Battalion Commander with the Special Training Regiment; and in September, he entered the Amphibious Warfare School, Senior Course. On completing the course in June 1950, he remained at Marine Corps Schools to serve as Chief of Tactics Section, S-3, and finally, Executive Officer, The Basic School. He was promoted to Colonel in November 1951.

Korean War

Colonel Walt was ordered to Korea in November 1952. He was in combat with the 1st Marine Division until August 1953, serving consecutively as Commanding Officer, 5th Marines, Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, and Chief of Staff of the Division.


On arrival at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, in August 1953, Colonel Walt saw duty as Director, Advanced Base Problem Section, Marine Corps Educational Center, through May 1954, followed by duty as Commanding Officer, Officers' Basic School, until August 1956. He also served as a Member of the Advanced Research Group, Marine Corps Educational Center, until June 1957.

Transferred to Washington, DC, Colonel Walt served as Assistant Director of Personnel until August 1959, then entered the National War College in Washington. He completed the course in June 1960.

In July 1960, Colonel Walt began a one-year assignment as Marine Corps Representative on the Joint Advanced Study Group of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Upon completing this assignment, he was promoted to Brigadier General and reported for duty at Camp Lejeune as Assistant Division Commander, 2nd Marine Division. In September 1962, Walt returned to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, serving as Director of the Marine Corps Landing Force Development Center there until May 1965.

Vietnam War

In May 1965 he was promoted to Major General and, in June 1965, assumed command of III Marine Amphibious Force and 3rd Marine Division in Vietnam. He was also Chief of Naval Forces, Vietnam and Senior Advisor, I Corps and I Corps Coordinator, Republic of Vietnam.

Ten months later, General Walt was nominated for Lieutenant General by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and his promotion was approved by the Senate on 7 March 1966. He continued in Vietnam as Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force, and Senior Advisor, I Corps and I Corps Coordinator, Republic of Vietnam.

As a testament to his vital role in Vietnam, Life magazine featured Lieutenant General Walt in a May 1967 cover story. The article noted the success of an innovative program initiated by Walt in August 1965 called Combined Action Company (CAC). This program sent squads of Marine volunteers into the countryside to assist local part-time militia men known as Popular Forces. As Life noted, "His CAC units all had the same orders: help protect the villages, get to know the people, find the local Communist infrastructure and put it out of business." Walt stressed the importance of using CAC to win the confidence of average, ordinary Vietnamese citizens. The magazine observed, "If these people could be located and won over, Walt argued, the Communists would be hit where it hurts." Because of his CAC program, the number of "secure" villages under General Walt's protection rose between 1965 and 1967 from 87 to 197, while the number of Vietnamese living in "secure" areas in general rose from 413,000 to 1.1 million.

Assistant Commandant

Upon his return to the U.S., Lieutenant General Walt saw duty from June 1967 until the following December as Deputy Chief of Staff (Manpower)/Director of Personnel, at Headquarters Marine Corps. On 1 January 1968, he was designated Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps.

In April 1969, the Senate passed and sent to the White House a bill to make the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps a four-star general position when the active duty strength of the Marine Corps exceeds 200,000. On 5 May, President Richard M. Nixon signed the bill, and General Walt was promoted to four-star rank on 2 June 1969, thus becoming the first Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps to attain that rank.

General Walt retired from active duty on 1 February 1971.

Medals and Awards

Navy Cross with 1 Award Star
Navy Distinguished Service Medal with 1 Award Star
Silver Star Medal
Legion of Merit with Valor Device
Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device
Purple Heart with 1 Award Star
Navy Presidential Unit Citation with 5 Service Stars
Navy Unit Commendation with 1 Service Star
China Service Medal
American Defense Service Medal with Base Clasp
American Campaign Medal
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with 4 Service Stars
World War II Victory Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal with Asia Clasp
National Defense Service Medal with 1 Service Star
Korean Service Medal with 2 Service Stars
Vietnam Service Medal with 4 Service Stars
Order of National Security Merit, Ulchi Medal with Silver Star
Order of National Security Merit, Ulchi Medal, 2nd Class
Order of National Security Merit, Ulchi Medal, 3rd Class
Korean Order of Service Merit, 2nd Class
Order of the Cloud and Banner with Grand Cordon
Choung My Medal
National Order of Vietnam, Commander
National Order of Vietnam, Officer
Vietnam Gallantry Cross with 2 Palms
Korean Presidential Unit Citation
Vietnam Gallantry Cross unit citation
United Nations Korea Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal

In Retirement

After retirement, Walt served as Director of the U.S. Marines Youth Foundation. He later coordinated a U.S. Senate investigation on international drug trafficking. In the mid-1970s General Walt served as the senior military member of President Gerald Ford's clemency board, and he later advised the Department of Defense on weapons development and combat training.

General Walt, who wrote three books after retiring from the Marine Corps, described the contradictions of the Vietnam War in an article for The New York Times in 1971. "On the one hand it was an extremely sophisticated war, with complex weapons unlike even World War II or Korea, he wrote. On the other hand it was a return to medieval war, pitting man against man on a battleground where only the courageous could win."

General Walt's three books were Strange War; Strange Strategy about the war in Vietnam; America Faces Defeat, about the dangers confronting the nation; and The Eleventh Hour, about the urgency of the nation's problems.

Death and Burial

General Lewis William Walt died on 26 March 1989 at a retirement home in Gulfport, MS, after a long illness. He was 76 years old. He is buried at Quantico National Cemetery in Quantico, Prince William County, VA, in Section 7, Site 51B.


Walt's first marriage, to Nancy Mary Sheehan, an Army nurse he met in World War II, ended in divorce. He was survived by his second wife, June Burkett Jacobsen Walt; and two sons and a daughter by his first marriage; Lewis W. Walt Jr., Lawrence C. Walt, and Mary K. Martin.

Origin of Nickname/Handle:
Shortened version of his first name.

Honoree ID: 428   Created by: MHOH




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